Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marc Hill

Marc Hill has to be one of the luckiest players in White Sox history. He was dangerously close to being cut from the team. He didn't impress at the plate, but he stuck around. All this after briefly considering retirement.

Marc played with the Cardinals, the Giants and the Mariners before almost retiring in 1980. The first base runner that he ever caught stealing was Mike Schmidt. From that moment on, he was known as a defensive specialist.

When Marc went to San Francisco, he was given the locker next to Willie McCovey. McCovey figured that no one had ever heard of Marc Hill. People have heard of Boot Hill and Bunker Hill, so Willie combined the names and came up with the nickname Booter Hill.

After a very brief stint with the Mariners, Marc considered retiring, when he lost his joy for the game. The White Sox came to the rescue. Tony LaRussa offered Marc an invite to 1981 Spring Training. He took it. The Sox only had Jim Essian catching, so Marc chose the Sox over a few other teams that extended invites.

Marc figured he made a poor decision when the Sox signed Carlton Fisk, but LaRussa had planned on taking three catchers. Marc wasn't done yet, Despite going 0 for 6 during the 1981 season, the Sox gave Marc a $5,000 raise for the next season. Marc responded by hitting .261 in 1982, the best average of his career.

Marc would stay with the White Sox until his retirement in 1986. He had the distinction of being mistaken for LaMarr Hoyt and Greg Luzinski because of his beard. He would actually sign their names on items when he was asked. Marc was the one who would light matches in player's shoes and fill hats full of shaving cream. It was his thought that a backup catcher should be the one to liven up the teammates and pose as the cheering section.

The duo of Carlton Fisk and Marc Hill set White Sox duo catcher season records twice. In 1983, they combined to hit 27 home runs. Fisk hit 26 and Hill hit 1. In 1985, they shattered that team record with 37 home runs. Fisk hit 37 and Hill hit 0.

It's amazing to me that Marc lasted 5 years on the White Sox. The White Sox loved solid defensive catchers who couldn't hit their weight as backups in the eighties. They released him on May 27, 1986. Normally, that would be the end of the story, but the Sox signed Marc as a free agent on October 2, 1986. The Sox released him 6 days later.

Was this a Hawk Harrelson free agent signing? Since Hawk retired from the GM position sometime after the 1986 season, maybe it was one of the last things he did as GM. As the new GM took over, maybe Marc was given the boot? That's the only thing I can come up with for such a short period of time between a signing and a release.

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